Sunday, September 18, 2011

Bella's Guide to Vegas Part 1, Peppermill, The Strip, Encore, Bingo, Ortiz and Mr. Olympia.

I have discovered that I no longer need AP News, CNN or even Google.  My facebook news feed has grown to such proportions that I generally know world news as it happens, AND what everyone thinks about it as well.  Tonight was no exception, with hundreds of friends giving me a play by play update of the Mayweather-Ortiz fight.  I don't care a whole lot about boxing.. I've seen some of the great fights in Memphis (Lewis-Tyson) and I'm vaguely aware of who is good and who is great. Josh actually went to this fight with a friend, Tom, from Harrah's. An evening of men punching each other in the face is a little to testosterone-y for me, but I was happy they were so enthused about having tickets.

I like to pull for the underdog, and I genuinely hate Mayweather's attitude.  A poker player (Noah Schwartz) who I've interviewed a few times, lives in the same building as Mayweather, which you would think would somehow obligate him to being a fan. Home-pride and all that.  Even HE was pulling for Ortiz tonight, agreeing with the general consensus that Mayweather lacks class in any capacity. One thing that struck me, in the photos I've seen posted, of both Mayweather and Ortiz.. is how absolutely adorable Ortiz looks.  He just LOOKS like a friendly guy. Sucks that he got his ass kicked.

Your smile is a win. Even if the punch you took in the head is not. <3

Anyway, I've been comp-hopping the last couple of weeks with Josh and CatCat. Which means, essentially, living free in hotel rooms by combining our player's club offers. This combined with the absolutely desolate state of available work, significant amounts of down time for walking and an utterly embarrassing shortage of funds for typical Vegas entertainment has made me VERY familiar with a great number of casino properties here. Today, I present for your voyeuristic entertainment, the Bella Donkey Guide to Vegas: Part 1.  This will be a work in progress.

A Walking Tour of the Vegas Strip

This place should be listed as one of the man-made wonders of the world. The ebb and flow of humanity here is something to marvel at.  Every week, it's a slow moving vortex of sparkly colors and thick traffic... building up to the weekend where literally hundreds of thousands of people converge on the streets in designer footwear and cameras and stand still. Seriously. They're everywhere, and no one is moving.  At least, this is how it feels when you're trying to walk through a crowd.  In every imaginable crevice, tourist cluster together like walls in Pac Man, delighting in the human mazes they create for people who actually have somewhere to be. 

And they're all going NOWHERE. Vegas. Number 1 tourist destination for standing around.

For added variety, people who presumably have nothing better to do, dress up like childhood icons and panhandle for change.  So a walk down the strip goes something like this. Stupid Tourist, Stupid Tourist, Stupid Tourist, Barney, Stupid Tourist, Stupid Tourist with kids, Stupid Tourist, Spongebob Squarepants, Mickey Mouse, Stupid Tourist.

This one is crafty. He's managed to panhandle and do NOTHING simultaneously. The Europeans love this shit.

Every once in awhile, one of these "street performers" will up the ante and actually play guitar or beat on a bucket in pseudo rhythm..maybe with a dog, maybe without, while soliciting change. In any other city this would be an arrestable offense, or at the very least, scorned by passerby. Not in Vegas.  In Vegas, this is f'ing headline news, drawing impenetrable walls of tourist with cameras. Which wouldn't be so bad if these performers didn't cluster at the most critical junctions and set up shop.  Invariably whatever destination I have in mind is precisely on the other side of two Teletubbies playing banjos with a small harem of dancing poodles and an open guitar case ready to absorb $1 bills.

Bella Donkey Advice:  The strip is damn near magical at 5:30 on a Tuesday morning, especially in front of the Venetian. You'll have the whole place mostly to yourself.  Except for that one drunk guy, but he's always there, so don't mind him. It's even better after a short desert rain.

Bingo in Vegas

This is a terrible idea.  If you're thinking about playing Bingo, because you think it will be fun, just save yourself the $17 (plus $1 for the really cool blotter thingy, which is by far the best part of the entire experience) and go to the strip and give the $17 to Barney. Or Spongebob. It'll be better spent. 

If you're still not convinced, allow me to elaborate.  I thought Bingo would be fun.  It's inexpensive, the jackpots are huge, and old people dig it.  Which gives me a statistical advantage, because I'm faster and younger and presumably of sharper mind.

Bingo is available at almost all of the Coast properties (Goldcoast, Sam's Town etc..), the Riviera and probably a few other equally swanky resorts. Make your way to the bingo hall, which will be the largest, most sterile looking room you've ever been in. You will be the youngest person by 20 years minimum.  Even if you're 60.  I'm not kidding.. this place is an Octogenarian's wet dream.

She looks like she's sleeping, but don't let her fool you. She's a lock for the Jackpot.

Buy your card, or if you're like me and have no idea what you're doing, buy one of every color.  Take a seat. Try to make as little noise as possible, or the old people will jump on you with rabid ferocity and vote you off the island.  Ask Josh about this one. Now the easy part.. blot your dobber on the corresponding number/letter. Rinse, repeat.  When you're exactly three numbers away from the jackpot, some asshole five rows behind you will yell BINGO. This will happen every single time. For all 12 games in a standard session. It's mind numbing.  Like poker, except, in Bingo.. everyone FULLY intends to suck out on you and relishes doing so.  For that, at least, I appreciate the honesty.

Bella Donkey Advice: Bingo is designed to reward people who have survived a minimum of 8 decades on this planet. If you don't fall into that category, it's a horrible idea. Stay away.

Peppermill Resturant - Las Vegas Blvd

If ever a place was sensory overload, this place is the definition. Inside the building are large synthetic cherry trees, dripping with synthetic pink blossoms surrounded by blue neon lights and disco-ball-esque mirror effects.  Waitresses wear short skirts and glossy stockings in bubblegum pink and periwinkle blue. The food is gigantic, giving this entire place the feeling of being in a lollipop forest straight out of Super Mario World. Large LED TVs play a stream of nature scenes to the beat of cloying new-age music. Even the sugar, displayed on each table, is multicolored and over sized appearing instead to be crystals in a dispenser.

Actual view from my table. I see this in my sleep now.

Like everything in Vegas, here you can get ribs or eggs, nachos or french onion soup.. at any hour of the day. Young hipsters, bikers, senior citizens and families with children dine side by side in 1950 style booths surrounded by plastic decor reminiscent of a Disney prop warehouse.

The food is slightly better than average, and the prices are moderate by Vegas standards. If the idea of eating deep fried delights in a disco themed nursery makes you queasy, I suggest visiting by the light of day. After 8 Jack and Cokes, this place will make you wish you'd avoided LSD that summer you followed the Grateful Dead around.  It's a flashback waiting to happen.
You CAN hide those sugar crystals on the equally psychedelic looking napkin. Camouflage WIN.

Bella Donkey Advice: Worth a visit.  It's sort of a landmark, from my understanding. Don't play with the sugar dispenser.  That shit has no internal stopper and will pour out a lot faster than you imagine, and it's really hard to hide 8 pounds of huge multi colored sugar crystals. The carpet is black, so forget brushing them off there, they're really hard to chew so abandon that thought, and for women wearing pink bloomers.. those waitresses are quick to cast judgemental stares. This is all hypothetical of course. Just sayin'.

Encore Casino - Part of the Wynn Family of Resorts

If you want to know what it looks like to have a spare billion dollars laying around, visit Encore.  Reminiscent of both The Beau Rivage and Bellagio (designed by the same group), this property is pure luxury.  Add to that the fact that it's a veritable ghost town most of the time, and there is an almost eerie feel to it.  It's like visiting the top 1% of the ultra rich echelon, but everyone is out at dinner.  Light fixtures that easily cost $20K each, fall into rows by the dozen.  Expansive lobbies showcase wall art that easily span into the upwards of $100K each.  Groves of indoor trees in expensive and hard to grow varieties are coated in glittering lights under domes of impeccable skylights.

Just a random peacock sculpture.  With a 15 foot crystal covered illuminated tail. Who doesn't have one in their foyer?

And yet, no one plays here. Well, a few people do.  I'm pretty sure the guy who owns Virgin Airlines, and maybe the middle eastern family that controls most of Dubai.. but no one any of us know. The place is worth a walk through though, at least, on your way to the Wynn side where normal people hang out.  If you're feeling frisky and want to play at Encore, I suggest spending whatever gambling money you're packing on something by Giorgio Armani or Hermes first.  Otherwise, they may not deal to you.  I'm pretty sure the dealer shirts were hand tailored by the staff of Alexander McQueen.

The outdoor walk-way. Like something out of Labyrinth. But with less David Bowie.

Bella Donkey Advice: If you're a window shopper, and like gazing upon jewelry that cost more than a nice house in the 'burbs, this place is worth a walk through.  Though I didn't eat here during my visit, I'm willing to bet the buffet does not include Hamburger Helper.  Which makes it a significant improvement over most (all) Tunica properties. Edited to Add: This just in.  Encore doesn't even HAVE it's own buffet. That's how swanky this place is. Jackpot.

I hope to bring you all another installment tomorrow.  I'm up against some significant down time until I head to Reno at the end of the month.  Other notes of interest:  Scott just nabbed a third place finish in a ring event, bringing home a cool $8K plus.  Two places better and we would have been off to some random wedding chapel in Vegas. Oh well.. maybe next time.

Scott's final table information sheet. See the part that says "Favorite Poker Player: Jennifer Gay". I get made fun of even 2000 miles away.  Man I miss that guy. Even though his phone number is available on the website for his Horse and Carriage business.. feel free to nab it off here and text him telling him how freakin' awesome I am. He needs reminding. <3

CatCat and Josh are doing well as roommates.  For someone who despises cats, and for a cat who despises humans who despise cats.. they're practically BFFs. 

The boys, watchin' football.  This can't be comfortable.

The Mr. Olympia contest just wrapped up here at the hotel I'm in.. The Orleans.  I've never seen so many bulging veins and transgendered looking women in one place.  It's rather interesting what these people have managed to contort the human body into.  The hotel room, when we checked in, had a notice laying on the desk that said "Spray Tanning in the hotel rooms is strictly prohibited" and that "Upon request, sharps containers would be provided by the front desk" suggesting that you not leave your needles laying around for housekeeping to stumble upon.  Freakish, and kinda awe-inspiring.

These guys were in the Internet cafe while I was blogging.  Apparently the middle one is Shaun Joseph Tavernier, some hardcore British Body Builder. A lucky find I suppose. There are DOZENS of these guys just roaming around the property right now.  A safe night to walk outside alone, for sure! Thanks Carl Sutcliffe for the info. :)

Speaking of freakish and awe inspiring.  I have referenced these shoes a few times now in blog posts and on Facebook, but I've never seen them in the wild.  Today, on a french female bodybuilder, I present to you.. Nike high heels. Vegas. Only in Vegas.

These gems haunt my nightmares.

And here they are, in the wild.

On a serious note, a friend read me a poem recently that has stuck with me through some pretty tough moments here lately.  Words mean more to me than just about anything.. they help me put concepts into reality and pen emotions down into something tangible.  I wanted to share this with you all, though you may have heard it.  I'm hoping it strikes a chord with you too.  Thanks for reading. I'll be back soon, I promise. :)

"Dare Mighty Things"
Theodore Roosevelt

In the battle of life, it is not the critic who counts; nor the one who points out how the strong person stumbled, or where the doer of a deed could have done better.

The credit belongs to the person who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; who does actually strive to do deeds;
who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotion, spends oneself in a worthy cause;
who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at worst, if he or she fails,
at least fails while daring greatly.

Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those timid spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.

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